Piracy "gaining ground" in Gulf of Guinea: UN official

February 28, 2012 11:30 am 

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 28 — UN undersecretary-general for political affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said here on Monday that despite the best efforts of governments and organizations, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is becoming an even greater threat and that further international support is necessary to combat it.

Pascoe made the statement as he addressed the UN Security Council during an open meeting on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

"While regional states and organizations have carried out initiatives designed to counter piracy and armed robbery against ships at the national and regional levels, the threat not only persists but appears to be gaining ground in a region where the high-value assets the pirates target are abundant," Pascoe told the council.

Piracy and armed robbery in the gulf has become increasingly problematic in recent years, drawing the attention of the international community.

Pascoe said the number of pirate attacks has "reached worrisome proportions".

"In 2010, 45 incidents in seven countries were reported to the International Maritime Organization (IMO)," he said. "Last year, the numbers rose to 64 in nine countries. In the first two months of 2012, the IMO has already reported 10 incidents off the coasts of Benin, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria."

The growing problem prompted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to form a mission to the Gulf of Guinea in October 2011. The mission visited several West African nations and assessed the threat posed by piracy as well as the efforts being made to handle the problem.

"The secretary-general's mission found that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has become more systematic, with the pirates resorting to sophisticated modes of operations and utilizing heavy weapons," said Pascoe.

Pascoe said the report issued by Ban's mission called for a " united front" from countries along the gulf as well as for a regional strategy from these countries to tackle the piracy problem. He recommended calling a regional summit "as early as possible in 2012" to create such a strategy.

"Isolated national initiatives are only temporarily, at best, pushing the pirates to shift their criminal operations from one country to the next," he said.

The under secretary-general praised the projects that Gulf of Guinea states have undertaken against piracy as "important building blocks."

Pascoe pointed to the multinational coordination centers set up by Central African states under the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) as well as the plans to create a Regional Center for Maritime Security in Central Africa (CRESMAC). He said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states have taken steps forward as well, intensifying efforts to establish a joint maritime security plan.

"For its part, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, composed of eight members from both West and Central Africa, sees itself as a bridge to link ECOWAS and ECCAS initiatives in the field of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea region," noted Pascoe.

However, countries making determined efforts to counter piracy, Pascoe said, have been undermined in doing so by their limited national and regional capacities.

"The resources at hand are inadequate and the region lacks a harmonized legal framework in the field of maritime security," he said. "This, in turn, can undermine effective cooperation to initiate and implement joint and timely anti-piracy activities."

According to Pascoe, there is a lot more to be done by the international community to help the countries of the gulf increase their maritime security capacities.

"Significant logistical support is required, in particular, to bolster national and regional maritime capacities," he said. (PNA/Xinhua)



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